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Natural Environments of Africa. CHAPTER 21. North Africa. Section 1: Natural Environments. The Sahara. Biggest desert in the world One of the harshest regions on earth, however people have adapted to living in this hot, arid region. Most people live near a desert oasis .

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Natural Environments of Africa

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Natural Environments of Africa


North Africa

Section 1: Natural Environments

The Sahara

  • Biggest desert in the world

  • One of the harshest regions on earth, however people have adapted to living in this hot, arid region.

  • Most people live near a desert oasis.

The Desert Environment

  • 3 main types of landforms in the Sahara

  • Ergs are great seas of sand with tall sand dunes (can rise over 400ft.)

  • Regs are gravel-covered plains

  • Hammadas are high, rock-covered flatlands (some are so tall that maps show them as mountains)

Adaptations to Life in the Desert

  • Many desert nomads belong to a group called the Taureg

  • Taureg are able to identify landmarks and use the stars to find their way

The Oasis Environment

  • Some oases are natural – many created by springs that bubble up to the surface from streams underground

  • Drilling machines are now being used to dig deep into the ground to locate hidden water

Oasis in Libya

Adaptations to Life in the Oasis

Bahariya Oasis in Egypt

Gaberoun Lake in in the Libyan Sahara

  • Most oasis settlements are small (fewer than 2000 people)

  • Trading and farming are the main economic activities – most are subsistence farmers

  • Growing oasis towns face 2 kinds of water problems: 1) how to get water to people as town expands, and 2) water shortages

The Nile

  • The world’s longest river – made up of 2 main branches: White Nile (longest branch) and Blue Nile

  • Ethiopia Highlands is the source of the Blue Nile and Lake Victoria in Uganda is the source of the White Nile

The Nile Through the Desert: Wadis and Dams

  • Nile Flows into Lake Nasser. It’s not a natural lake but a reservoir (one of the largest in the world) formed in 1970 with creation of Aswan High Dam

  • The dam was built for 2 main reasons – hydroelectricity and control the river’s flow (prevent massive flooding)

  • Negative effects of Aswan High Dam – (1) thousands of people had to move when Lake Nasser was formed b/c their homes were covered by water, (2) also the dam traps most of the rich silt that used to flow to the Egyptian farmlands – result is less fertile farmlands downstream


West and Central Africa

Section 1: Natural Environments

  • Plains and low hills make up most of the landscapes of West and Central Africa.

  • All of West and Central Africa lies within the tropics, so most areas are warm throughout the year.

  • Environments range from the arid Sahel in the north to the Tropical Environments of the Congo Basin.

The Congo and the Niger are 2 of Africa’s major rivers.

  • Along the southern edge of the Sahara is a region of semiarid climate called the Sahel.

  • The vegetation of the Sahel includes scattered trees, shrubs, and grasses.

  • The Sahel often suffers from drought.

  • The Sahel is being overrun by the Sahara through a process known as desertification.

Congo River Basin is a Large Rainforest (largest in Africa)

  • West and Central Africa have a wide variety of natural resources such as tropical timber, good soils for farming, and many different minerals.

  • The most valuable energy resource in the region is oil, particularly in Nigeria.

  • West Africa is the world’s major source of cocoa beans because of it’s climate.

Shantytowns provide labor for the oil industry

Oil creates many environmental hazards in Nigeria – oil spills and oil fires are all too common


East Africa

Section 1:Natural environments

Section 1 Natural Environments

Landforms in East Africa have been shaped by tectonic forces.

  • The Great Rift Valley—aseries of geological faults—is divided in Western and Eastern branches.

  • Lakes have formed in the rifts—Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana

  • Volcanoes have erupted within or near the rifts—highlands of Ethiopia, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

  • Nile River begins in East Africa at two sources.

Section 1 Natural Environments

Climates, biomes, and resources:

  • highland elevations produce cooler climates, more rainfall, and thicker forests.

  • Farther north and south, seasonal droughts are common; vegetation is limited and animal life threatened.

  • Tsetse fly permits survival of native animal species by making livestock raising difficult.

  • Resources are limited; most important are rich highland soils (for farming) and scenic beauty (for tourism).


Southern Africa


Section 1: Natural Environments

  • Along Southern Africa’s coastline is a narrow coastal plain and a high plateau lies farther inland.

  • Veld-Grasslands area of South Africa

  • The Namib Desert & The Kalahari Desert

  • The Drakensburg is main mountain range

  • Madagascar is known for its biodiversity, particularly the region of eastern Madagascar.

  • The Orange and Zambezi Rivers are 2 of the most important rivers of the region.

  • Tropical wet and dry and semiaridclimates are found in much of Southern Africa.

  • The plants in the Namib Desert get water from dew and fog rather than rain.

  • Further inland, however, the Kalahari desert receives a little rain. Some Palm trees and other plants are able to survive here.

Main Natural Resources and Energy

  • Gold

  • Platinum

  • Copper

  • Diamonds

  • Coal (used to generate electricity)

  • Hydroelectricity (b/c of the many rivers)

White Rhino Napping

Penguins in South Africa

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